Tunica casinos stronger one year after flooding

(WMC-TV) - Business is back in Tunica, Mississippi, after the Great Flood of 2011 forced all nine casinos to close their doors.

Bright lights and noisy slot machines once again dominate the casino strip, but this time last year all was quiet, lights were off, and the doors blocked by eight feet of water.

"There was just no way to stop it, we tried to sand bag and everything and it just didn't stop," said Greg Hinton, assistant GM of Caesar's Entertainment.

Exclusive video from Chopper 5 made the casinos look like they were a part of the mighty Mississippi River. Down below, boats were the only way to get around.

"We were closed here for 26 days and most of the other casinos were closed for about 3 weeks," Hinton said.

Tourism is the heartbeat of Tunica and as the river rose, the dollars dropped.

Just ask Amanda Reed, a former waitress for a popular Tunica restaurant.

"It slowed down drastically. I mean, it got to where we were lucky to get $20 in tips in an 8 hour shift because so few people were coming through," Reed said.

Figures from the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau reveal tax revenue from restaurants, gasoline, and other services were cut in half from the previous May.

With business already down, companies had to spend even more money on repairs.

"The river has a lot of mud in it and when it receded it left all that for us to clean up," Hinton recalled.

Crews also found snakes, fish, and other wildlife inside where gamblers used to sit.

Armed men had to bring the money back in to the casino, but business was slow at first.

"I think once we were open we spent awhile trying to convince people certainly those who fly in from other markets that we were actually open," said Hinton.

Now Caesar's Entertainment says business is stronger. New clubs, attractions, and events are bringing people back, and it is not a moment too soon for this town.

"The casinos are what bring the tourists in to begin with and once they get here they have the opportunity to see Tunica and Robinsonville and that's really where all of it comes from is tourism," Reed said.

Hinton hopes that weddings and other events will bring even more people to the popular tourist area.